Back to School Series: Keeping Kids with ADHD Active After Summer Vacation

Our team at LearningWorks for Kids has long been known for our advocacy of leveraging kids’ video gameplay as an opportunity for learning executive function, social-emotional learning, and academic skills. Our philosophy is simple; “Catch’em where they’re at”. We want to use children’s focus, persistence, and motivation with screen-based play to improve the skills that are crucial to their success in the 21st century. But when we are asked to choose between video games or outdoor time for kids with ADHD, we have come to a unanimous conclusion; Outdoor play wins every time. 

The LW4K construct of a healthy “Play Diet” asserts the primary importance of outdoor, physical play. All children, even those who are neurodivergent, benefit from outdoor time and experiences with nature. The evidence is compelling that kids with ADHD benefit from spending time in nature and being outdoors in green spaces. Some experts have suggested that this type of environment is the “natural cure” for the symptoms of ADHD. 

It is much easier to keep kids with ADHD outdoors during the summer when there are many more free hours and better weather conditions. And while some kids with ADHD might have managed to get themselves into a bit of mischief this summer, the freedom and outdoor nature of summer vacation are healthy for most kids with ADHD. 

With the start of the school year approaching, these children will need to adjust to a very different environment and schedule. We know the importance of outdoor time for kids with ADHD but how can we keep them outdoors after their summer vacation?


Here are 5 strategies to keep kids with ADHD outdoors and active after their summer vacation:


Advocate for Outdoor Time:

Become an advocate for outdoor time during school hours. Far too many schools sacrifice outdoor recess, breaks, and school activities that benefit children with ADHD for a narrow focus on academics and tasks to improve standardized test scores. On an individual basis, you could work with the school to develop a 504 plan that includes daily physical outdoor activities for your child with ADHD. 

Treat Every Day Like It Is Summer:

 Make going outside the norm no matter what the time of year. If you live in a northern climate, ensure that your child has very warm winter clothes and help them enjoy the snow with activities like skiing, snowshoeing, fort building, and even shoveling snow from driveways. 

Help Head Off Frustration:

The school year starting means that homework is once again a reality for children. Even when your child cannot be outside, there are ways to adjust learning time and spaces to be more accommodating. This doesn’t mean relieving children of their responsibilities, but rather making those necessary tasks more enjoyable. Get a standup desk for kids who have trouble remaining seated when doing their homework. You might even try having them do their reading on a stationary bike. Encourage a child with ADHD to use a fun homework organizer. Another suggestion for confident readers is to listen to audio books or podcasts to improve their reading comprehension. Get some fresh air by walking to the library to look things up and complete homework and then make a side trip to a local ice cream shop.

Make Learning a Social Experience:

Encourage your child to collaborate with other students and friends to work on homework and other assignments. Ensure that your student knows how to use technological resources such as Google Hangouts to work on school projects or consult with their friends about homework. Collaborate with your child’s teacher so that your student does not have to take on the bulk of the pressure and become overwhelmed by excessive amounts of homework.

Make Time for Play:

Make sure that every day is a day for playing. All kids need to play, and those with ADHD need playtime not only for relaxation but also to improve skills for attention and learning. Be sure to make time for play; your child needs it just as much as what they are learning in school. 


What techniques are you using to ease the transition back to school? Share your tips in the comments section below! 

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